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Story #78Lane Southern OrchardsFort Valley, GA

We’re very mindful of the fact that if you’re not growing, you’re shrinking, essentially.

Since 1908, Lane Southern Orchards has been harvesting some of the best peaches and pecans in the state of Georgia. The family-owned and operated farm is currently run by CEO Mark Sanchez, who has been leading the transition from a traditional farm into a multi-faceted business. In addition to being one of the top agro-tourism destinations in Georgia, Lane Southern Orchards has a restaurant and bakery, a roadside market that sells produce during the summer, serves as a location for corporate events and picnics, and is beginning to branch out into commercial sales.

When speaking of the recent growth Lane Southern Orchards has seen, Sanchez references a quote from John Maynard Keynes: “the difficulties lie not in the new ideas, but in escaping the old ones.” For Sanchez, growth is necessary to keep the business alive, and that means being open to new opportunities for business. One recent opportunity has been to sell their fresh peach cobbler at local Sysco and Whole Foods locations, and Sanchez hopes to expand their food service operations in the future.

Despite the growth, Lane Southern Orchards is staying close to its roots by playing an active role in their Fort Valley, Ga. community. Aside from being one of the largest employers in the county, the farm works with local hospitals and started a foundation in the name of Anne Lane Tribble, a member of the Lane family that gives the farm its name. Their annual golf tournament has raised almost $50,000 per year in the last couple of years, and “it all goes right back into the community,” says Sanchez. “We’re very proud of that.”

The biggest challenge that Lane Southern Orchards faces is one that they can’t control: weather. “I get up in the morning and check the weather,” says Sanchez. “You have to be able to react and make the best of any given situation.” Furthermore, overcoming those hurdles is what makes him happiest.

“When you persevere and still come through those and have a successful year, it really makes you feel good.”

 

Photos by Jessica Dimmock

  • Peaches of uniform size are collected into boxes to be shipped at Lane Southern Orchards.

  • Bins piled high with fruit will be sent to the packing facilities at Lane Southern Orchards.

  • Peach pickers take a lunch break at Lane Southern Orchards. “You’ve got to put your employees first,” says CEO Mark Sanchez. “Without good employees and happy employees, you cannot be successful.”

  • Perfect peaches are taken off the tree by a member of the Lane family. Lane Southern Orchards has recently begun to branch out into commercial sales, and their peach cobbler is distributed at local chains like Sysco and Whole Foods.

  • Rows of Lane Southern Orchards-made jelly line the shelves of the store that they have on site. A nearby cannery produces the jars and ships them back to the store.

  • Peaches are sorted for size before being packaged and shipped at Lane Southern Orchards.

  • Bins of peaches cool before being sorted and packed at Lane Southern Orchards.

  • Lane Southern Orchards is also home to approximately 3,000 acres of Pecan trees. For this small business, the biggest challenge is one that is beyond their control - the weather.

  • Mark Sanchez and his team discuss the placement of apple trees at Lane Southern Orchards. “I want to see this company grow,” says Sanchez. “I want to be a big part of it and lead us.”

  • Mark Sanchez, CEO of Lane Southern Orchards, has been helping to lead the transition from traditional family farm into a multi-faceted business that includes a roadside market, restaurant, bakery, event venue, and more recently, commercial sales.

  • Peaches are collected and measured for size early in the morning at Lane Southern Orchards.

  • An employee of Lane Southern Orchards picks peaches. The farm is one of the largest employers in the small county, with 65 full-time workers.

  • Mark Sanchez, CEO of Lane Southern Orchards, feels peaches from the morning’s harvest. Sanchez joined with the Lane family and two other families in 2006 to take over the day-to-day operations of running the farm.

  • Peach pickers at work at Lane Southern Orchards in Fort Valley, Ga., home to approximately 2,500 acres of peach trees.

Business Details

Proprietor: Mark Sanchez
50 Lane Rd. Fort Valley, GA 31030
PH: 800-27-PEACH / Website
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